Tennessee ‘religious freedom’ bill would allow mental health counselors to refuse atheists and gay people treatment

Religion has recently been making big strides in state affairs. One example would be Tennessee’s House Bill 1840, that if passed would allow mental-health counselors to refuse services to those who have conflicting belief systems.

“These bills represent not only a direct attack on the LGBT residents of Tennessee, but a direct threat to our state’s reputation as a place that is welcoming for business and tourism,” Chris Sanders, Executive Director of the Tennessee Equality Project said. “We call on all Tennessee residents, businesses, and lawmakers who share our vision of a fair, hospitable, and welcoming state to reject these discriminatory bills as the wrong direction for our state.”

“The bill is aiming to reinforce the First Amendment by protecting the religious rights of counselors, allowing them to refer a patient elsewhere. He also expressed that the bill protects patients and helps them to get better care, not denying care,” Representative Jason Zachary told Local 8 News,

The bill violates section C.5 of the American Counseling Association’s Code of Ethics, which says that professional counselors may not refuse clients based on, “age, culture, disability, ethnicity, race, religion/spirituality, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, marital/partnership status, language preference, socioeconomic status, immigration status, or any basis proscribed by law.”

The association sent an email out to mental health professionals on March 24, reminding counselors that the “needs of the client are always a top priority, according to universally taught principles in counselor education, rather than the personally held beliefs of the counselor. This tenet is a civic and professional responsibility for those who are professional counselors.”

From Patheos:

However, such objections are hardly relevant to the bill’s sponsor, Representative Dan Howell… a former local [Fox News] anchor who is more concerned with legislating his religion into everyone else’s private affairs.

Oh, and by the way, if it’s now OK for mental-health professionals to refuse service to sinners, can other exceptions to the Hippocratic Oath be far behind? May a Protestant nurse refuse to empty a gay woman’s bedpan? May a conservative-Catholic physician refuse to treat a divorcee’s broken collarbone? And may a born-again EMT refuse to treat a crash victim whose car has a fish-with-legs bumper sticker?

Watch the Tennessee Equality Projects video on the bill below:

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